First day at the Engage international conference – stimulating discussion, talks and workshops… keywords for the day:
How do you make sure that community art is co-creation or co-production with the communities it is serving? One answer given at the conference was: asking, involving, listening, then acting – not on what you want to do, but on what the community wants to do. Get more involved in the community – what are they fighting for? Get involved in those fights.. This probes a core question of any public-art – who decides what matters?
Much of today’s conference discussion of co-creation revolved around artists seeking out the voices and stories of the community. Important though narrative is, doesn’t the act of people telling their story through art, inevitably happen within the limitation of society’s aspirations for those people? As a disabled person, I find that some people are willing to “listen” to me, many less are willing to believe I can contribute, lead, or make a difference… and at times it is hard for me to believe that too. So, yes. I agree, the arts absolutely should be a vehicle for people to have a voice, to tell their stories, to advocate for what is important to a community. And, as well as giving a voice, arts must have a role in seeking a bigger vision, believing that having found a voice, perhaps things can begin to change?… Does “telling your story” automatically lead to individual or community hope? does one automatically grow out of the other or do we as practitioners/facilitators need to keep both in mind?
More information on Engage – Rethinking Diversity
Many thanks to Artlinks Square Peg for the opportunity to attend this event.
An enduring and disturbing memory from the Body Extended exhibition (2016, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds), was that of disembodied prosthetics, objectified, separated and observed. The sense of the artificial limb (or disabled ‘part’) being the only thing that is engaged with is all too familiar, as if that is all there is, all that is important… Perhaps such experience is why Square Peg’s Centre of Attention exhibition is both timely and necessary.
Re-contextualizing fashion and prosthetics, the exhibition showcases bespoke prosthetics that become an extension of the persons personality, enhancing their capabilities and expressing something of who they are, what they are interested in and how they exist in the world. Prosthetics from The Alternative Limb Project, commissioned for model Kelly Knox are on display, along with mouldings, and stunning fashion photography that challenges pre-conceptions about disability and body ideals. An intriguing film aims to provoke conversation about identity, personality and body image.
The exhibition is presented in an empty shop in Hull’s Princes Quay shopping centre, alongside fashion retailers in a busy thoroughfare – the exhibition is ideally placed to stimulate conversation and challenge preconceptions.
At last, an exhibition that sees the person, and the possibilities, not just the problem…
Centre of Attention is a collaborative project between Artlink’s Square Peg, The Alternative Limb Project, Fly Girl Films, and Kelly Knox.
From friends and family
From children and land
From work and school
From hopes and dreams
From body, soul and mind
“we just get on with it”
TORN is a powerful exhibition exploring women’s experience of war, conflict and genocide. Lee Karen Stow’s images of red, white and black poppy petals, dried and pressed onto glass, then painted and photographed are presented as a video installation. Her photographs are displayed, along with fragments of text and an evocative soundscape (including the voices of women), from Lee’s 10 years of documenting and working with survivors. TORN is a collaborative project in which Lee Karen Stow has worked alongside Liz Knight (textiles), Hayley Youell (sound) and Hull Women’s Refugee Group to bring a timely reminder of the devastation, and resilience of humanity in the face of conflict and violence.
The exhibition is presented as an immersive sound and video experience played on multiple monitors in a semi-dark gallery space. Large-scale textile works are hung on the walls around. The photographs are beautiful, but for me, what makes this exhibition powerful, is the direct involvement of women survivors – in the textile artworks and the audio experience of their voices in the sound piece. The way they speak so honestly and directly into a community, largely separated from the physical realities of war, makes this an excellent resource – it would be great to see elements of this exhibition made available online, or in the form of material useable in schools and community groups.
Lee Karen Stowes poppy phtoographs were first shown at an exhibition in Liverpool Museums: “Women, War, Peace” as part of 2014’s First World War Centenary.
Her exhibition TORN is in Humber Street Gallery, Hull until 31 December 2017. For more information, visit Humber Street Gallery.
“If time is the dimension of change, then space is the dimension of coexisting difference. And that is both a source of nourishment (something that the globalisation gurus seem altogether to have foregone), and a challenge (how to negotiate difference, how to address inequality, and so forth).” (Doreen Massey)
From Hurvin Anderson’s paintings exploring diaspora, through Enrg Hull’s ‘practice in process’ exhibition featuring Matt Hopper’s Intriguing 3D app enabled landscape paintings, the complexity of ‘place’ has been resonating not only in my studio practice (see Humber Docks above), but also in my planning for future underlined project workshops. Our connection with place exists within a context of relationships which is perhaps part of what makes space a dimension of multiplicity and diversity. Not just one person, two places (as in Hurvin Anderson’s art) but one place, many interpretations… the implications of which opens perhaps more questions than answers…
A piece I produced responding to the 1st underlined community arts project workshop:
Vibrant, lively, fragmented at times, but finding connections in unexpected ways..
Over the past weeks, I have been reflecting on my own experience of facilitating the first underlined project workshop with a Dementia Café (part of Alzheimers East Ridings of Yorkshire), and on my interactions with the participants. We focused on the cut-outs of Matisse from which, as a group, we produced a wonderful collage. This formed the basis for this photomontage, where slight gaps in recall are surrounded by lively forms, colours and connections that weave a surprising new narrative. I wanted to reflect the sense in this work that each part in the piece matters, each contribution counts, and, like the interactions I sensed during the workshop, collectively adds to a bigger story where strengths and abilities coalesce in an environment of openness and acceptance.
the original cut-out based collage produced during the workshop: